1920’s Aesthetic Decor Fundamentals
Have you ever noticed how distinct the 1920s looked?
I mean, really, think about it.
When you look at photos or recreations of the 1920s, it’s nearly impossible to confuse it with any other period. There’s a specific feel to the 1920s aesthetic, and it had everything to do with the atmosphere of the decade and the trends that took root.
Ahead, we’ll explore the signature looks of the 1920s and how you can bring it to life in your home.
Before we discuss how to incorporate the 1920s aesthetic in your home, here’s an overview of the era for those who might have dozed off during history class.
The 1920s was a decade of optimism, and the decor of the decade reflected the drastic shift in attitude.
Think about what that decade had going for it:
- World War I was over
- Jazz music was all the rage
- Ford started mass-producing automobiles
- The economy was doing pretty well
That last part, the healthy economy, allowed for more extravagant choices in style.
These choices included the frequent use of fancier jewels, like diamonds and onyx, and more expensive building materials, like ivory.
Even today, that bright and bold imagery harkens back to a specific time in history, yet it somehow always feels modern.
In short, this style can bring images of a party out of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to mind. And who wouldn’t want to attend one of those?
This over-the-top aesthetic was Art Deco, and it was still in vogue well into the 1930s.
Granted, it went through some changes as the world shifted from an attitude of endless prosperity to one of the Great Depression.
Still, despite a shift toward more down-to-earth materials and mindsets, the cornerstones of the style remained the same throughout the ’30s and continue to remain the same today.
So, what fundamental elements make up the Art Deco style?
And more crucially, how can you incorporate this style into your home?
From the jazz age to the modern era, let’s talk about that bold 20s aesthetic, Art Deco, and the best ways to include this style in your home.
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Art Deco first appeared in a 1925 exhibition in roaring twenties Paris. And according to Britannica, it was at this exhibition that the aesthetic was given its name.
Art Deco pulls influence from several sources and incorporates various elements into its design. Interestingly, it leaned on Egyptian influence while also emphasizing modernity and the smooth lines of machinery.
Because of the conflicting ideas and influences trying to work together, there’s often debate about what features define this decor style. Some elements, like the use of more expensive materials, show up within this style regularly but aren’t core aesthetic features.
Here’s the thing, though: If you break it down, there are only four fundamental elements that act as the foundation of this 1920’s aesthetic.
These elements are:
- Minimalist, clean patterns
- Metallic components
- Prominent use of glass
- Bright colors
Several additional elements can fall under Art Deco’s umbrella, including floral prints, hard edges, and sleek designs.
However, these four are the essential elements when recreating 1920s fashion:
Simple, Clean Patterns
One of the most consistent themes in Art Deco is its clean lines and simple patterns. It is a style that differed from other famous 20th century styles, like Art Nouveau and Bauhaus, neither of which celebrated modernity.
A designer can express these elements in various ways, and you can often find Art Deco patterns that take this idea and go in a unique direction with it. However, there are a few common ways that you’ll often find this idea used.
For example, one of the more common patterns in Art Deco is the zigzag pattern. Architects and artists used this feature in buildings and murals throughout the ’20s and ’30s.
Chevron patterns also often feature in the 1920s aesthetic, acting as a more streamlined version of the zigzag motif.
These clean patterns can also come in the form of geometric designs. These can be as simple as a repeating pattern of squares or get wildly complex and intricate.
Closer inspection often reveals that the design comprises simple shapes, like triangles and squares, even in more intimidating patterns.
Some of the more popular variations of these geometric patterns appeared as scallop print designs and mosaic tiles. Scallop print, in particular, found its way onto a variety of wallpapers and furniture fabrics during the 1920s.
While the Art Deco style celebrated more modern sensibilities, it also paid tribute to mass production.
Many popular art trends emphasize hand-crafted items, but Art Deco was different: it focused more on the wonders of the machine age.
And why not? It was an amazing new world where things didn’t need to be painstakingly crafted by hand; some machine was doing that instead!
This focus is best represented in Art Deco by its heavy reliance on metallic features.
For example, Art Deco often includes things like iron railings, metallic wallpapers, and brass fixtures. These metallic features often highlight other elements of the style, such as Art Deco’s frequent use of glass.
Prominent Use of Glass
Much like the reliance on metallic features, the frequent use of glass in Art Deco contributes to the aesthetic’s modern appeal and its relationship with industrialization.
Unlike other styles that emphasize the modernity of glass, the 1920s aesthetic focused on the mass production of glass.
This choice is best represented in the architecture spawned from the Art Deco style, which often features far more exterior windows than in previous techniques. It was also essential for this aesthetic to border these windows with either steel or concrete, giving the buildings a more industrial and geometric design.
The 1920s aesthetic also used mirrors regularly in interior design. These mirrors were seen as a more modern addition while making rooms appear larger than they were. Mirrors may not be a modern decoration today, but they can still create the illusion of space in a room.
Bold, Bright Colors
Finally, nothing does more to capture the eccentric nature of the 1920s aesthetic than the bold, bright colors of Art Deco.
This use of color was in stark contrast to the styles that came before, which often opted to use more muted colors for interior design. Contrasting bright yellow, ruby, purple, and turquoise was more exciting and expressive.
Also, as a way of combining these colors with clean lines and patterns, these colors were often seen in sunburst art and motifs. Sunbursts and sunrises became a calling card of Art Deco, and it gave the aesthetic even more of an excuse to use a variety of bright and bold colors.
These fundamentals can often work together to create lavish decor that stands out from other styles.
For example, the bright colors, glass, and geometric shapes can create an intricate stained glass mosaic. Variety and flexibility were some of the most remarkable features of this style.
As long as the art was sophisticated and non-traditional, it fit the style.
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It may be the bee’s knees to discuss the features that create this style, but where could someone actually see Art Deco in action?
Well, an easy way to see how these fundamental features work to create the Art Deco aesthetic is to look at some incredibly famous examples in the world.
Specifically, it can be beneficial to view this art style from the viewpoint of the architecture that it inspired. Despite the height of this style happening about a century ago, we still have several prominent examples of this art standing today.
The Chrysler Building
One of the best uses of Art Deco globally is the Chrysler Building in New York City. It’s the tall one that’s not the Empire State Building.
Designed in the 1920s, construction on this building wrapped up in 1930, putting it smack-dab in the middle of the Art Deco craze.
The building features several core elements of the aesthetic, including zigzag lines, sunburst art along the top, and over 3,800 windows. And, of course, it also plays right into the fundamental element of metallic features, with a frame made of steel and filled in with concrete.
The Tulsa Club Hotel
If we asked you about some of the artistic hotspots of the United States, where would you think of first? New York City? San Francisco? Maybe New Orleans?
Tulsa, Oklahoma, isn’t often discussed as one of these art and culture hubs. Still, few places in the U.S. can compete with this heartland city when it comes to Art Deco.
And the most impressive example of this style in Tulsa is, without a doubt, the Tulsa Club Hotel.
This building, constructed in 1927, is a love letter to everything Art Deco. Its exterior construction features tall vertical windows, while its interior has a simple geometric design.
Not to mention that the whole place practically oozes opulence. This building’s reputation as an Art Deco icon is so well renowned that it recently went through an expensive renovation to preserve its unique look.
You can practically picture Flappers in the drop waist hemlines, congregating in its ballroom to do the Charleston while listening to the one-and-only Josephine Baker.
Bullocks-Wilshire Department Store
A final example we recommend referencing is the Bullocks-Wilshire department store in Los Angeles.
The exterior of this building alone will tell you everything you need to know about the attitude of the 1920s:
- Windows cover the building
- It has a tower that looms above everything else around
- The exterior has a colorful palette, featuring both pink and green
This classic Hollywood high-end shop once housed Coco Chanel and Flapper dresses that we can picture Jay Gatsby buying for Daisy.
With clean geometric patterns and tall glass light fixtures, the Bullocks-Wilshire building remains an outstanding example of the 1920’s aesthetic.
It shouldn’t surprise you that we no longer live in the roaring 20s, which may disappoint anyone who loves everything about this aesthetic.
And we get it: who wouldn’t want to see this style everywhere?
To that, we ask: why not use it in your home?
You don’t necessarily have to turn your living room into a speakeasy. However, you can give a particular room an Art Deco makeover. Or you may want to spread the aesthetic’s influence out across several areas.
Either way, there are some great ways to use the themes of Art Deco to your advantage.
Here are three simple techniques to give your home a taste of this decor:
1. Use Bright Colors
First, I know it might be intimidating, but don’t be afraid to use bold colors in your designs.
A more modern spin on this classic staple of Art Deco would be to include high-saturation earth tones, potentially in the form of an accent wall.
These colors not only match most furniture, but the bold saturation of a color can help capture the over-the-top tone of the 1920s aesthetic without feeling out-of-place.
Another way to include these bold colors could be to add velvet furniture to your home. While this may not work in every room, a lovely velvet armchair can bring a non-traditional personality to a room that you can’t get otherwise.
Plus, nothing can make your living room feel like it belongs in an Agatha Christie novel like a big velvet armchair.
2. Brass and Glass
Next, don’t be afraid to include brass and glass features in your interior design. In fact, they can go a long way to bring the Art Deco design into your home.
This can take the form of light fixtures, full-body mirrors, or even tables. It captures two of the aesthetic’s fundamental features in one smooth motion. Plus, these items can often serve as functional features within your home.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a stylized trinket to fill that space on your shelf or if you want to replace your entire coffee table. Either way, adding brass and glass items to a room will immediately bring more of the 1920’s aesthetic into your home.
Also, consider using metallic fabrics on furnishings like throw pillows and small blankets. These changes can give the impression that there’s more of a metallic presence in a room without you having to actually buy a metal piece of furniture.
3. Angular Furniture
Finally, if you’re looking to get new furniture for your home, it may be wise to consider purchasing items with a more angular design.
These designs can work clean lines and simple geometric patterns into a room. If you’re looking for this kind of furniture, you’ll want to look for items that feature straight lines and acute angles.
While some angular furniture may not look too comfortable or appealing, look around! Art Deco furniture is often large and comfortable; it just lacks some of the frills that other styles may include.
You may find some of these other methods a bit more challenging to pull off. However, the three listed above are easy and effective ways to include this Art Deco design into your house.
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As the First World War ended and people shrugged off the tired Victorian era, Art Deco was born. And now that you know a bit more about the 1920s aesthetic, you can show off your knowledge to your friends!
You can also use this newfound info to add a retro yet timeless look to your home. It can be as easy as adding glass and brass fixtures to your home, or you can even buy a whole set of angular furniture.
Regardless, including some Art Deco in your home can bring a unique energy that guests are sure to notice.
Now all you have to do is don your best brain binder and get it done!